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Internet Dating Then (2004) and Now (2024)

In 2004, Internet dating was a baby I was scared to pick up. It was barely walking. But I wasn’t meeting anyone anywhere else, so I signed up for Classical Music Lovers Exchange ( How dangerous could Mozart lovers be? It netted me my first date in 12 years, or, if you reach back to before I was married, 22 years. He was a psychologist who analyzed me all through dinner. His schedule was spectacularly incompatible with mine, but when he proposed taking me to the opera, I found that my own schedule had been beefed up with activities so I wouldn’t’ be lonely, and I wouldn’t be available for a month. It was a start. was free, so I tried that. I think it was after reading dozens of mens’ profiles on Yahoo that I discovered that men and women are pretty much the same. They want someone to listen to them and to talk to, some sex, and respect. I downgraded “having something in common” to secondary status. was the big time; organized, clear, and easy to navigate. There were hundreds, thousands, of “men looking for women” all over the world. A person could drown in there. I met a man with whom I had a lovely, loose relationship for a year, had coffee, dates, phone calls and email exchanges with yet others.

My favorite was craigslist, mostly a cesspool, but it had one big advantage; there were no instructions. A man had to make up his posting all by himself, which allowed creative men to sparkle.  One man said he’d be “bird watching in Central Park at 11:00 tomorrow morning.” The birds were not avian.  Clever. “Zimbabwe coming to New York” led me to the dearest of my internet connections, one which ended in my spending a month in Harare, Zimbabwe.

And there was eharmony, which wasn’t interested in me because their true goal, I was told, was getting Christians to have sexual intercourse within the confines of marriage.

I learned more than I’d expected from my two years of internet dating: men are just like women, except for a few details; younger men like older women (I was 62); there are a zillion men out there; best to navigate your way through the blast of sexual innuendo or worse that heralds every new contact—the real conversation starts after the blast ends; I see no point at all in phone sex or email sex, but a lot of people do; and, finally, though it’s a little scary to step out into that big world, it yields fascinating dividends and sometimes a partner.

The business world began taking notice. My nephew made a fair living for 15 years with a blog that charted online dating enterprises.

I got married and, blessedly, did not have to concern myself with dating sites…I hoped ever again. But I am now a widow almost four years past my loss. Internet dating had surprised me at 62; what could it teach me at 81?

Big business has taken over. There are emails inviting you to spend more money every damn day, upgrade this, buy that, boost yourself, have your profile featured. The focus has come off the lives of the individuals who would like to find a mate and is fully, annoyingly, inappropriately on the bottom line of the corporations running the sites. They have scraped up every possible way of making a buck off you.

The people on the sites are very familiar with the internet, unlike in 2004, and have learned to game it. The prize is mostly quick, non-binding sex. Men who bait their profiles with their desire for a loving relationship are ready to drive two hours to fuck you. Tonight.

We all know what animals men are. But oh my, what animals women are! The men who contacted me were unabashed in asking to spend the night, tonight, which led me to the conclusion that women must have taught them that this was acceptable. I repeat—having a total stranger spend the night in your house, tonight, was acceptable.

Following this a little further, I harked back to something I realized in 2004. I was now able, if I chose, to have sex the way men have sex. Casual was okay. Once was okay. If somebody felt like bashing you as a “loose woman,” a “slut,” a “whore,” ineligible for consideration as a wife if you had sex on the first date, they kept their disdain to themselves because the audience for such disdain was disappearing. Heck, when I was growing up the rule was no kisses until the third date.

In my opinion, women’s sexual liberation is the result of improved contraception, including the morning-after pill ,which erases poor decisions, the availability of divorce, which has uncovered the unsatisfactory nature of at least half of America’s marriages, making people less keen to pledge themselves to a single person, the anonymity of the internet, which protects savvy women from catastrophe, and the fact that more self-sufficient women answer to no-one.

By 2024, our American community has hatched a full generation of women who are claiming the right to have sex the way men have sex, and men are taking advantage of it. Can’t blame them. I’m surprised that women aren’t more careful, though. They are more vulnerable to physical abuse and rape, and many can get pregnant. 

I wasn’t on for long ; it was too depressing. There was a fair number of younger men who were interested in “getting together,” with an 81-year-old woman, which surprised me as much today as it did in 2004. I’m afraid I disappointed one younger man who I think was expecting older women to be less trouble than women his age.

The man from Kentucky thousands of miles away (I live in Vermont) who “wants to talk” is the same man who “wanted to talk” in 2004.

So I’m signing off, but still recommend it. If you think life is tidy and well ordered, just a glimpse will shake you into a saner perspective. I remember reading many years ago that one in ten Americans was homosexual. I’d ride down in a crowded New York City elevator and look around wondering which one it was. After glimpsing the intimate lives (not only sex, but their aspirations, their disappointments, their eccentricities) of my fellow Americans, I look around my very respectable neighborhood today and wonder….

The fundamental question remains—do you want to know the truth, or do you want to pretend that life is as you would like it to be?